While the COVID-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of daily life in Singapore, this year’s Chinese Lunar New Year celebration is no exception.
The Chinese Lunar New Year is arguably one of Singapore’s most important festivals, with around 74% of its citizens and permanent residents of Chinese descent. Amid fears that local cases of infection could be on the rise following gatherings of family and friends and celebratory activities during the festive season, the government has put in place a number of measures restrictive. Therefore, this year’s Chinese Lunar New Year is marked somewhat differently.
For Li Yan, an overseas Chinese, this year’s celebrations just got easier. His parents and family live in China, but his wife’s parents and family are all in Singapore. Her stepfather has six siblings.
Li and his wife, who is a middle school math teacher, used to spend the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday by hosting his wife’s parents and relatives at home and visiting relatives’ houses later. The party would start from 11 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. local time to accommodate guests, he said.
Due to government imposition that each household would receive eight visitors per day and each person can only visit two households per day, however, the Li couple decided this year not to invite the wife’s relatives to lunch and not to visit their homes either.
For those who reunited, things weren’t exactly the same.
For the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration in Singapore, the most important dish is undoubtedly yusheng, a Cantonese-style raw fish salad, a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Diners use chopsticks to shuffle yusheng and say auspicious phrases in between.
This year, the government has advised the public to avoid shouting auspicious phrases when engaging in yusheng throwing.
Instead of a silent pitch, Aaron Yang, the founder of a consulting company, managed to do the pitch with the accompaniment of pre-recorded blessings. In this way, he could not only enjoy the fun of throwing, but also comply with government requirements.
Gan Mi, a mother of two, enjoyed staying with her family during the Chinese New Year holiday. In order to meet their need to travel when they cannot fly overseas due to worldwide travel restrictions, she spent the holidays staying with her children at the local Marina Bay Sands hotel.
Playing in the rooftop infinity pool and gazing at the glittering expanse of the city and shopping at the mall downstairs from the hotel, they had a wonderful time there.
Attracting local staycation customers, hotels here have offered discounts and packages for lovers, family members as well as frontliners battling the coronavirus, such as setting up a tent in the hotel room so that children can explore it, welcoming pets at the hotel or offering free tickets to tourist attractions.
In addition to moving into hotels, local residents are also fleeing their homes by boarding cruise ships.
Local media Lianhe Zaobao reported that two cruise ships left Singapore on February 11 and 12, taking thousands of people for a sea voyage and a fireworks show.
Some have even frequented the ships twice in recent months. Cruises sail from Singapore to Singapore without docking at any other destination. Additionally, all passengers must undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test before boarding the ships. But all this did not dampen the passion of vacationers.
While the lantern display is an important part of New Year celebrations, Chinatown’s lantern display was turned off on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year to avoid overcrowding. For visitors wishing to appreciate the 24 lanterns on display at Gardens by the Bay, they must first register and only 2,000 are permitted per time slot. They must also pass a temperature check and maintain a safe distance during their visits.
On Monday, Singapore reported no community cases of COVID-19 for five consecutive days, with the total number of cases standing at 59,809.